- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008


Insurgents vow Ramadan attacks

MOGADISHU | Somali insurgents vowed Wednesday to intensify their attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as the capital erupted in violence that forced residents to cower in their homes for hours.

Also, France’s Foreign Ministry said pirates off Somalia seized a sailboat carrying two French citizens and took them hostage. Wednesday’s hijacking is the ninth by Somali pirates since July 20, and occurred in the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and is one of the world’s busiest waterways. A Cabinet minister of the semiautonomous northeastern Somalia region of Puntland said his government had received information about the hijacking but had no details.

In Somalia, citizens suffer near daily spasms of bloodshed, and thousands of civilians have been killed since Islamic fighters began an Iraq-style insurgency in December 2006, after they were driven from power in Mogadishu and much of the south.

Ramadan began Monday, and Wednesday’s violence killed at least four people, although the death toll could be higher, witnesses said.

Some residents of the capital, Mogadishu, fled their homes to other parts of the city, carrying their belongings. It appeared to be the most sustained fighting in Mogadishu since Aug. 21, when four hours of fighting outside the presidential palace killed 12 people.

The insurgents are trying to topple the government and drive out Ethiopian troops who are propping up the administration.


President sees big win, new statute

LUANDA | Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said Wednesday he planned to change the constitution, signaling he expects his party to win a two-thirds majority in this week’s parliamentary election.

“[Angola] needs a modern constitution to reinforce democracy and the rule of law,” he told a vast crowd of hundreds of thousands of people at his party’s last campaign event on the outskirts of the capital, Luanda.

Some political analysts believe Mr. Dos Santos, who has led Angola since 1979, wants to change the basic law to further increase his own powers.

The veteran leader hopes Friday’s election, the first in 16 years, will set an example after flawed elections elsewhere in Africa. His MPLA party needs to win at least 147 seats out of 220 in parliament to secure a two-thirds majority.

The MPLA had 129 seats and the main opposition UNITA party held most of the rest in the previous parliament.

A two-thirds majority would allow the party not only to change the constitution but also to continue to reject calls from the opposition to transfer some of the president’s executive powers to the prime minister.


Thousands mourn at president’s burial

LUSAKA | Thousands of Zambians mourned late President Levy Mwanawasa on Wednesday as he was buried in the southern African country that he had made a rare success story on the continent.

Regional leaders also attended the ceremony for Mr. Mwanawasa, who pleased donors and investors with financial reforms in the copper producing state and took a stronger stand on the crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe than many of his counterparts.

Mr. Mwanawasa, 59, died in a French military hospital last month after suffering a stroke in June. He had led Zambia since 2001 and was re-elected in 2006.

Vice President Rupiah Banda is acting president and among over a dozen candidates jostling to become the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy’s election candidate in November. The scramble has increased political uncertainty.

Among African leaders at the funeral was Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. He had come under harsher criticism from Mr. Mwanawasa than from other presidents in the region over the turmoil in Zimbabwe and widely condemned elections.

“Mwanawasa was a very courageous leader. He was very frank and wanted to change not only his country but the entire southern African region. We will greatly miss him,” Zambian state radio quoted Mr. Mugabe as saying on arrival in Lusaka.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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